Saturday, July 2, 2011

Increase Restaurant Profits Through Menu Engineering

Guest Blog by David Archer

Let’s go inside your restaurant to examine ways to turbocharge the marketing power of the most important selling tool you have – your menu! This is where the customer decision can be influenced. It’s the last sales opportunity you have before they make their final choice and place their order. As a traffic driver, you’re trying to increase return visits by capturing the hearts and minds of your customers.

Different restaurant concepts have different types of menus. The following menu enhancing ideas can be applied in one way or another to almost any type menu – you’ll have to decide which ideas work best with your concept. The underlying goal is to increase your check average and your margin. To do this, you’ll first need to know what your margins are. If you sell a steak for $15 with a food cost of $8, and you sell a plate of linguine for $12 with a food cost of $4, you’ll want to feature the linguine because when you do the math, you’re putting an extra dollar in the bank every time the customer chooses pasta over steak.

Once you decide what you want to sell, there’s a variety of ways you can guide the customer into making the choices you want them to make…

• List Management – All locations in a list are not created equally. Our eyes naturally look at the top item in a list and the bottom item, often glancing over the middle items in a list. Be sure to put the items you want to sell at the topand the bottom of your lists, and break up long lists into smaller ones so you don’t have so many unseen locations.

• Box Featured Items – An easy way to draw attention to an item in the middle of the list is to draw a box around it. This has the added value of not only drawing attention to that item, but it also creates two lists out of your long list. You now have a “top” and “bottom” location in the list above the box, and a “top” and “bottom” location in the list under the box.

• Picture It – Pictures sell. If you have a quality photo of an item on your menu, it’s a virtual guarantee that the sales of that item will skyrocket.

• Icons – Draw attention to an item with a little graphic. It can say “New” or “We’re Famous 4 It” or just be a tiny version of your logo to signify it’s your specialty. Any of these will make that item stand out from the others and make the readers eye stop on that line.

• Name It – Add some pizzazz to your menu items by naming them. Would you rather order “Oysters” or “Chesapeake Bay Oyster Platter?” By getting descriptive and creative with your names, it will enhance the sales of those items.

• Exclusive Creations – Customers love to order items that they believe are unique to your restaurant, especially if they can’t experience the same thing at other restaurants. If you don’t have something unique, try creating something new that you can claim as your own. Unique creations can command a higher price point, because customers can’t do a price comparison, so don’t be shy when it comes to pricing.

• Emphasis Add-Ons – Are there ways to enhance your normal plates, such as
“add shrimp to your steak for $2,” “Add Blue Cheese crumbles for $1,” or “Add a second vegetable for 99 cents.” These add-ons are incremental sales that do wonders to your check average!

• Create Combos – Have you ever done the math on the combo meals at quick service restaurants? They usually have little if any discount to the price, yet they make it much easier for the customers to say “yes” to adding a drink and chips to their meal. Look for ways you can create a combo to increase your sales.

• Feature other Courses – Encourage your customers to order appetizers and desserts. Beverage sales are another add-on that increases profits. Feature these items in your menu, or make a separate menu that focuses on selling these items.

• Price Increase – It may be the most obvious way to increase income, although you always walk a fine line between an increase in income and a potential loss of customers. You can accomplish a hidden price increase by adjusting the items you offer on your menu. If you add some NEW interesting items that
are higher priced and get the customers to buy them, you essentially have a price increase. To take this one step further, you could also delete some lower priced items, however you probably don’t want to take off popular items or you will have unhappy customers. If a low-priced item is too popular, try reintroducing your “New and Improved” version that has something added to it, which can justify a price increase.

And that wraps up a good list on ways to enhance your income by focusing on your
menu. Print this out and put it in a file so you can be reminded to look at your menu every few months, to determine if you have new opportunities to increase sales through menu engineering.

David can be reached at:

Since 1991 retail food consultancy Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche for more on Steven A. Johnson and Foodservice Solutions® Bing or Google Grocerants or visit, or Facebook Steven

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